On Monday, a coalition of environmental groups submitted approximately 760,000 signatures to California election officials in support of a ballot measure that would raise funds for state parks. The parks funding campaign needs 433,931 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify the measure for the November 2nd ballot. Election officials now have until June 24 to certify the measure.

If approved by a simply majority of voters in November, the measure would give Californians free admission to all of California’s 278 parks, including redwood forests, historic sites, and beaches in exchange for an increased vehicle registration fees of $18 annually. The measure would raise the state parks operation budget to approximately $500 million a year, compared to the woefully inadequate current budget of $380 million, and would eliminate the need to close parks for a lack of funds.

California’s state parks and beaches have been threatened with closure as the state addresses unprecedented budget shortfalls. Recently, Governor Schwarzenegger drew strong public opposition with his proposal to close as many as 220 of California’s 278 parks to help balance the budget. Even after lawmakers restored the funding, Schwarzenegger proposed closing 100 parks, but then changed course and settled for $14 million in cuts. These costs forced some parks to remain closed longer in the spring and summer, closed visitor centers, and eliminating services at many parks, beaches, and historic sites. Although the Governor proposed and approved a similar $11 million increase in 2008 to vehicle registration fees to fund the California Highway Patrol, Governor Schwarzenegger opposed the parks funding measure.

The Planning and Conservation League supports this parks funding measure, and we are eager to have it placed before voters on November 2, 2010.

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